What Will Happen To Me If I Decide To Not Have Any Treatments For My Breast Cancer?

Question: What will happen to me if I decide to not have any treatments for my breast cancer?

Answer: Well, the hope for women with early-stage breast cancer is that by using surgery and radiation therapy and where appropriate, chemotherapy and hormonal treatments, that we can help prevent the cancer from coming back. And each of those therapies has been studied in very well-controlled clinical studies and shown to be valuable for many women.

So in terms of optimizing your chance of being alive five or ten years from now, we often encourage women to think about these very specific treatments. Many of these treatments have side effects. Sometimes they are disfiguring; sometimes they make people fatigued or feel sick; sometimes they cause menopausal symptoms. And nobody likes the idea of getting medical treatment when they don't need it. So again, many of these decisions will be very individual and appropriate only for you and so you need to talk to your doctor.

Having said all that, there are compelling studies that show that most of these treatments help women live longer and so we often recommend them because we're trying to do everything we can to help you survive better. There's no guarantee that these treatments will prevent the cancer from coming back, but they represent the state of the art for medical knowledge right now and we do encourage them.

It's not really clear what happens if you do nothing for breast cancer. The best data we have for that goes back to the early 19th century when they didn't really have any effective treatments for breast cancer and many women at a hospital in London were followed. And if untreated, breast cancer universally becomes a fatal disease. It can happen over long periods of time. But if you don't have surgery and if you don't have other treatments, it doesn't go away on its own. That's why we recommend people -- that they get appropriate medical treatment. We think we can do a lot better for women nowadays.

Next: If my breast cancer comes back, how long do I stay on treatment?

Previous: What can be done if my breast cancer comes back? How long can I live if my breast cancer comes back?

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 3649051. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 3649051. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 3649051. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 3649051.
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: The scene near the finish line of the Boston Marathon is seen in this April 16, 2013 file photo. Inset, suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are seen. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunfight with police and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured.
Elise Amendola/AP Photo; Inset: Lowell Sun, FBI/AP Photo
PHOTO: The first explosion knocked down a runner at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon.
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
PHOTO: Pulaski Township Police Sgt. Chad Adam seen here in this undated Facebook photo, went undercover as an Amish woman.
Pulaski Township Police Department/Facebook
PHOTO: The Earths shadow is cast over the surface of the moon as a total lunar eclipse is seen though a Magnolia tree top in the sky over Tyler, Texas, April 15, 2014.
Dr. Scott M. Lieberman/AP Photo